Begin Again

One year ago my husband and I began our journey toward recovery.   We enrolled in and attended LifeSTAR, he attended 12 step groups, and we had nightly check-in’s as a couple.  My attitude in the beginning was “We can do this.”  “We can heal.”  “We can love.” “We can recover.”  “We can move forward.”  “We can be healthy.”

From the beginning, it was, in my mind always our journey.  I probably (or definitely…) said otherwise though.  I said and maybe believed I was doing it all for myself and my own recovery.   Was I though?  Was I doing recovery work for myself?  I don’t think the answer is a clear and powerful “yes”.  Because, hi, I’m (was?  still am? working on it?) co-dependent and found myself constantly enmeshed in my husband.

In the beginning I believed I could fix “it”.  That I could fix HIM.  That I could MAKE him love me.   I just had to love him enough.  I just had to be pretty enough.  I just had to be friendly enough.  I just had to be smart enough.  I just had to be witty enough.  I just had to be more.   I didn’t want to admit, and never did until recently, that I actually believed those things.  That I believed I just wasn’t enough and if I was enough I could fix him and he would love me.

Here’s the thing though, I AM ENOUGH.  Sure, I have my own issues, my own flaws, and my own weaknesses, but my worth is not contingent upon the value or lack of value my husband (or anyone else) places upon me.  My identity is not tied to his.  His opinion of me is not necessarily my own.  His reality is not necessarily my reality.  His truths are not necessarily my truths.

I cannot force his love.  I cannot force his committment.  I cannot force his recovery.  And today I can genuinely say that I don’t want to.  That’s not to say that I don’t want all of those things, because I do, badly.   I  know now though, and I mean really know (and if I said it before, disregard that and regard this) and understand (and actually believe) that I have zero control over any of those things.   Zero.

It’s taken a year of therapy, serious spiritual efforts, a separation, a (semi) reconciliation to my husband, and sheer will, but this is finally my journey.

These past few months have been H-A-R-D and I am still breathing.  I’m functioning and even thriving in some ways.

I can do this.  I can love.  I can heal.  I can recover.  I can move forward.  I can be healthy.

Getting to Know Me

It’s been awhile.  Playing catch-up right now feels particularly unappealing, so I’ll save all that awesomeness for another post.

Lately I’ve spent some (A LOT of) nights alone with only introspection (and the occasional Cosby Show re-run)  as my companion and I wanted to jot down one of my recent personal epiphanies.

For maybe the first time in my life, I’ve been sincerely laboring towards establishing a relationship with myself.  My thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my motives, etc. have been mostly buried beneath an enormous pile of stinking co-dependency.  Digging through that mess requires brutal honesty and serious, serious self-reflection and examination.  Sometimes that kind of analysis literally hurts my brain.  Sometimes it’s gratifying.  Most of the time though I feel as if I’m pressured up against an impossible brick wall stymied by foreign territory.

I’ve been entrenched in co-dependency and shame for so long that I often struggle with even knowing, let alone understanding, how I actually feel, what I want or need and even what my own thoughts and opinions are.  I obviously became disoriented at some point during my journey.  I certainly didn’t stray all at once though and my drifting isn’t even a complete result of being married to an addict (that’s not to say though that living with an addict did not have a huge and undeniable impact upon my already existing issues).  After scrutinizing and evaluating the relationships with the men I’ve dated (and married…) I’ve come to a conclusion:  I’ve been seeking for a man to mollify the colossal chasm in my soul.

I’ve been seeking for a man to love me unconditionally and absolutely.

I’ve been seeking for a man whom I could trust without fear and without hesitation.

I’ve been seeking for a man to earnestly appreciate my character and to really see me for who I am and could be.

I’ve been seeking for a man to encourage me perfectly without judgement, shame, pressure, or disappointment to improve my deficiencies.

I’ve been seeking for a man to want to listen me and to hear the unspoken.

I’ve been seeking and yearning for my husband to fill these impossible expectations entirely on his own.  He doesn’t because he can’t, not wholly and not perfectly anyway.  When these roles aren’t played totally by him I feel and have felt crushed and insignificant.

My self-worth was (and honestly, still is to some degree. I’m working on that…) wrapped up in how he felt about me, how I perceived he felt about me and in how he expressed how he felt about me.

I’ve been expecting a mortal man to be everything to me.  To supply the antidote to my every need and to do so without error.  I’ve been seeking for a man when I should have been seeking for God.  The void and emptiness I feel can only be mended perfectly by a perfect being,  by the one who created me and knows me and loves me best.

I’ve been a church-goer my entire life (albeit with stints of inactivity).  I’ve been a church-believer my entire life (albeit it with stints of doubt).  Somehow though, I became a little confused on the journey.  I became so focused on being a rule-follower and a people-pleaser that I missed the mark and neglected to develop a real, sincere, and genuine relationship with my God.

I’m just now realizing and accepting what a spiritual infant I am in so many ways.  My recovery and my personal happiness depend on my efforts toward spiritual maturity.

So, here’s to a new beginning.  Why not start it out with a healthy dose of vulnerability, right?!

Crash and Burn

Two days ago I made a decision and felt honestly hopeful.  Two days ago I didn’t think it could get any worse.  It has.  

Finding comfort and strength in these scriptures today:

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast” (Psalms 57:1).

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalms 91:2).

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation” (2 Nephi 22:2).

 

No More a Zode

I attended the adult session of my stake’s conference with a friend last Saturday.  Throughout his talk, the second counselor of the stake presidency spoke directly to me.  Well, it felt like it anyway😉

He began by reading “The Zode in the Road” by Dr. Seuss:

“Then he got an idea that was wonderfully bright!

“Play safe!” cried the Zode.  “I’ll play safe.  I’m no dunce!

I’ll simply start out for both places at once!”

And that’s how the Zode who would not take a chance

Got no place at all with a split in his pants.”

For months I have been that Zode:  getting no where at all with one foot starting toward Place 1 and one foot toward Place 2.

The night of Discovery Day #2, I firmly stated to my husband that he had exactly one year to prove he was making significant progress in his recovery or else I would leave him.  I marched to our computer and on our shared calendar clicked on October 7, 2013 and then boldly (and proudly…) typed “D-Day (as in Decision Day…).  Has my husband changed?”

When I issued this ultimatum, I thought I was simply enforcing accountability and installing a much needed boundary.  Which, is true, but (of course) not so simple.

I didn’t realize until very recently, that by setting a specific date to decide whether or not I would check out of my marriage, I was checking out of my marriage.  In times of extreme grief and pain I would find myself counting down the months left of which I had to endure.  “Only eight more months of this.”  “Three months down, only seven more to go!”

Still married (and sincerely wanting to be), living in the same house, functioning (trying to at least) as part of a union, but at the same time stepping toward a new life as a single woman.  As a result of this thinking, the detachment and disconnect I have been feeling towards my husband has steadily increased to a point where little to sometimes no connection exists.

Although there have been slips and setbacks along the way, my husband is working diligently to overcome his addiction.  I know this not because he tells me, but because I see it.

I see it when he interacts with our children.  He is present with them and generous with his love, attention, and affection towards them.

I see it when he chooses to listen to uplifting and spiritual music.

I see it when he takes his LifeSTAR assigments with him to work.

I see it when he kneels for his personal prayers.

I see it when he attends his weekly 12-step and LifeSTAR meetings.

I see it when he chooses to be open and honest with me regarding his temptations and slips.

I see it when he makes an effort to express empathy towards me in my pain.

I see it when he looks into my eyes during our conversations and really listens.

I see his committment to recovery.  I am committed to our marriage as long as steps toward recovery are actively sought after.  If the time arises that I need to re-evaluate my committment to my husband and to our marriage, I will know.  God will tell me.  Not some silly date on a calendar.

 

 

 

Muck & Mire

I’ve been slogging through a mess of new lows, but I think I may be regaining firm footing (my sweat pants have finally been replaced by jeans), but I can’t be sure.  My emotions are so often unpredictable and unexpected.

Three recent events:

#1  One week ago, I slid into the mire after a disclosure from my husband.  He had what I would classify as a slip, maybe a series of slips, and did not tell me about it for a week or more.  He purposefully kept the information from me and hid the evidence.  He’s so good at covering his tracks.  The thing is though, I don’t care about trying to uncover those tracks anymore.  I no longer police his phone, his computer, or his tablet.  He will make his own decisions, as he should, regardles of whether or not I’m on patrol.  I am powerless against his choices and I don’t even want power over his choices.

Despite all of my newfound independence, I’m still reeling from the effects of his lie.  ‘Old’ pains from past lies were summoned to the surface to join in with the new pain of a new lie.  My heart hurts and I’m sorrowful for the loss of the teeny tiny glimmer of hope that trust could grow again.

#2  Conference.  Conference, conference, conference.   April 7th, 2013 marked an anniversary of sorts.  Six months ago, in October 2012, a mere two hours following the close of the Sunday afternoon session, my whole world toppled and then crumbled beneath me.  Six months ago my husband and I sat together in the conference center basking in the glow of spiritual enlightenment, edification, and connection.  At least I was.  Who knows, really, what he was feeling.

This past Saturday, we again sat together in the conference center, but I am ashamed to say that, for me, there were no feelings of enlightenment, edification, or connection.  I found myself unable to concentrate on the words of the Lord’s chosen servants.  I hardly even tried.  My heart was plagued with the events of six months prior and every detail intertwined with those memories and further into the muck I sunk.

#3  Yesterday, while working on a video montage for the upcoming birthdays of my children, I happened upon a photo of my husband, one I had never seen. There was nothing obviously inappropriate about the photo, but my gut screamed otherwise.  I felt I needed to ask my husband if the photo had been intended for another woman.  I was calm and unemotional as I asked and as I received the reponse that, yes, that photo had been intended for another woman.  A woman with whom he had shared some sort of online/phone/whatever relationship with.

The photo was taken more than a year ago.  It’s in the past.  For my husband.  For me, it is in the present.  It is now a detail which adds to the ever present glare of reality.  Yes, he formed ‘real’ connections and shared intimate details of his life with women other than me.

Some days and weeks I feel great.   I feel like I can conquer all of the unpleasantness of this trial set before me.  I have hope that my marriage can heal and even thrive through and under extreme pressure.  I feel strong and brave and determined.  I have hope and feel excitement at the opportunity to accept the challenge and become a more confident and less flawed version of my current self.

….and other days, I feel stuck and unable to lift myself from all the muck and the mire.  Some days I have nothing but pain.

Angry: Plain, Not Simple

-Angry that I am dreading Summer and all the shorts, tank tops, and swim suits

-Angry that I don’t trust my husband

-Angry that I feel pressured by my husband to trust him

-Angry that the emotional connection between my husband and I is virtually non-existant most of the time

-Angry that our sexual intimacy is so super complicated

-Angry that I want to be seen as “sexy” in my husband’s eyes

-Angry that I feel all women are a potential threat to my marriage

-Angry that memories from the past nine years are marred by lies

-Angry that I’m always suspicious of my husband’s actions

-Angry that I no longer feel I can trust myself and my intuition

-Angry that I feel pressure to recover the ‘right way’

-Angry that my husband does not understand the pain his actions have caused

-Angry over my own flaws and mistakes

I’m just plain angry, but none of the above statements are simple.  None of them are unattached to some sort of “but” or some sort explanatory and exploratory soliloquy.

Anger masquerades as my friend.   Anger feels safe and protective.  Anger feels strong.  I can hold onto anger and feel powerful.  Anger buries grief and painful honesty.  Anger is reliable.  Anger is invulnerable and does not disappoint.

For days (weeks?  months?) now, I have chosen to nestle in close to anger.  Today though, I’ve snatched the mask.  Anger is not my friend.  It’s greedy and selfish.  It lies and manipulates.  It stunts growth and progression.  It plunders for warmth leaving ice in its wake.  Anger shuts down connection and real love.

My journey is about choices.  Even if it’s just for today, I choose faith and courage and let go of anger.

Post-Therapy Wednesday

Here I am again, in the midst of a swirling emotional hangover.  Therapy encourages my feelings and the issues surrounding them to bubble over onto the surface, which is productive…and painful.

Tonight:  wedding dinner for a close relative.  Tomorrow:  temple sealing and reception.  Isn’t it nice that therapy joined in to complete this stellar three day line-up?!   I’ll be living at trigger central for the next two days with plenty of opportunities to board the crazy train.  Hopefully though, with the knowledge gained over the past four months my feet will remain planted firmly on the platform.

Last night at LifeSTAR, we discussed slip prevention.  A “slip” for me involves obsessing over a trigger which then causes unhealthy behaviors and exaggerated emotions.   My mission is to restructure faulty thinking patterns to form rational, healthy patterns which will then lead to rational, healthy behaviors.  A nugget of wisdom from my therapist: “To improve your life, improve your thoughts.”  I’m getting better at analyzing and improving the thought patterns stemming from my triggers, but even with that said, a LONG journey still awaits.

One week before I discovered my husband’s addiction (for the second time), we attended the temple sealing of my cousin and her husband at the SLC, UT Temple.  Following the sealing, as is customary, we congregated outside the building to wait for and greet the newlyweds.  As we milled about with family, I realized I had forgotten my camera.  I asked my husband if I could borrow his phone to take a few pictures.  He answered with, “No, you’ll drop it.”  Um, really?  He was incredibly protective of his phone and physically kept it out of my reach.  It was as if I were ten years old with an obnoxious brother playing keep away.  My brain sounded with “Red Alert!  He’s looking at porn/engaging in cybersex again!”  I then immediately scolded myself for being suspicious.  Time and again he had reassured me that he hadn’t looked at pornography for years.  For whatever reason (actual trust, denial, fear..etc.) I trusted him.  One week after said event, I found a text message from an unknown woman on his phone that sparked the beginning of our current journey.

I’ve been obsessing about the above event because tomorrow we will be once again at the SLC temple.  Already powerful emotions related to our last experience and the events which followed are simmering.

This is where I usually “slip” into unhealthy behavior.  Not this time though.  I want to be happy and healthy.  I want it bad.  I’m exhausted by the constant melee between my triggers and I, but my hope is that as I continuously and persistently attack with force my faulty patterns of thinking will be restructured into healthy patterns.

Here’s to the next two days!  Wish me luck!

Step 12: Service

I attended my first 12-step PASG (Pornography Addiction Support Group) last week. After weeks and weeks of requests, my husband finally convinced me to go with the promise that other spouses would be present (the recovery meeting which he attends encourages spouses and family members to attend with the addict). We arrived a few minutes early and seated ourselves among the six or seven men already present. I was hopeful that other wives would soon join the group, but as more participants filtered in it became clear I would be the only spouse, the only female (aside from the sister missionary), present for the meeting. Good times…

Usually such circumstances trigger feelings of panic, anxiety, and serious nausea. Surprisingly though, I felt comfortable and somehow at home. We are all children of God and as I listened to their stories, I felt that family unity. Those men are my brothers.

After an opening prayer, each member of the group took a turn reading from the addiction recovery manual detailing the evening’s focus: Step 12: Service. Each member was then invited to share personal experiences/testimony of how service has been applied to their recovery. My husband volunteered to share first and the circle of sharing traveled to his right. Because I was sitting to his left, my turn was last.

Before having arrived at the meeting, I decided I would pass on any opportunities to share my thoughts/feelings. As my turn neared though, I found myself wanting to speak. Often my actions are determined by the expectations or needs of others (more on codependency later…), so this feeling of doing something for myself because I wanted to almost overwhelmed me. When my turn came, I shared my testimony of the important role of service in my recovery/healing:

My husband’s addiction has been hidden from me for most of our marriage. In the five months since discovering his secret for the second time in eight years, I have allowed myself to be swallowed up in grief and fear. Only recently have I begun to surface from the thick fog of depression and self-pity. Service has been a significant beacon leading me from the density of crushing pain into the clarity of acceptance and healing. As I make continued efforts to be friendly and helpful to strangers, I feel the glow of confidence returning. As I fulfill my church calling, I rejuvenated by light and love. As I am fully engaged as a mother with my children, the suffocating grip of pain loosens. As I serve my husband, I feel love and forgiveness softening my heart and rebuilding connection.

I have found real healing power in moving beyond my own pain, my own trials, and essentially my own self, with a sincere desire to serve others. The blessings I receive from serving others far outweigh the ‘sacrifice’ required to serve. “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt 10:39).

I am grateful I accepted my husband’s invitation to join him at the support group. In one 90 minute session I gained important insights which have since continued to be a great source of strength.

My Present

Liberated from his weathered and worn mortal body, my grandpa now rests in a place of peace and comfort. Early yesterday morning he left this earth dispensing a bit of grandfatherly wisdom.

One of the most valued lessons he taught in life is made even more pricelss and profound by his death:  Life is the journey and the moments that make up the path. Enjoy each moment.  Mischievous and never without a glint of playfulness in his eyes, he encouraged me to eat dessert before dinner, get muddy, and go in search for treasure in unlikely places. “In all of living have much of fun and laughter.  Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured” (President Hinckley, Stand True and Faithful, Ensign, May 1996, 91).

Throughout the recent months of dealing with my husband’s addiction and my own recovery, I’ve  found myself living much in the pain of the past or in the uncertainty of the future, missing the beauty of the present entirely.  I’ve allowed the fun and laughter in my life to be stiffled by my grief and lonliness.
In honor of you, grandpa, I will strive to live in and embrace each moment along my path. I will join in the laughter and silliness of my children. I will search for and reclaim my excitement and adventure.  I will embrace the instants of connection with my husband. I will celebrate humble victories over fear.  I will search for the positive and even the joy of difficulty.  I will live now.

“Today is a gift and that is why it is called the present.”

Canoes and Water Part II

Two segments of  Sabbath awesomeness:

#1:  During the third hour of our church block the teacher began with an analogy:  Faith is respresented by a (…maybe a satiny, red?!) canoe with two oars corresponding to belief (an opinion or conviction) and action (something done or performed). Without oars the boat will remain stagnate or simply drift along with the current. With only one oar  the canoe will spiral; moving, but not advancing. With both oars though, the canoe is capable of direction and progression.

“Faith preceeds miracles”.  I need healing.  My husband needs healing.  My marriage needs healing.  Within the past few days I have been gently and lovingly reminded that I must utilize both oars.  I need to row with both oars.  They are necessary to access the type of faith essential for happiness and healing.  Both oars are required to enjoy a full relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
#2:  Later in the lesson the teacher spoke the familiar experience of The Lord and the Apostle Peter:

“In the midst of the sea, tossed with waves..” the disciples waited on a ship for Christ to join them.  When they saw Jesus coming to them, He was walking on the sea.  Peter said,”Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”  The Lord answered, “Come.”  Peter stepped “down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”   (St Matthew 14:28-31)

When my life is focused on Christ, when I am rowing with both oars, I am strong, confident, and courageous.  I often lose that focus though and become distracted by my fears and anxieties.  How grateful I am that even when I do become distracted, Christ continually and immediately stretches forth his hand to comfort and support me.